Something bizarre happens when I approach the gate of Stefanie Powers' house in Beverly Hills. A bright yellow Mercedes-Benz two-seater comes around the corner and almost knockes me off my feet.
Just like the car in the iconic television series Hart To Hart, it is driven by a glamorous woman with big hair.
It is of course just coincidence, not Jennifer Hart herself, the character who was first played by Powers 40 years ago.
A slightly more staid white Honda SUV is in the driveway of Powers. But the 76-year-old woman who opens the red front door is just as glamorous and slender as ever. Older of course, with her hair cut short in a bob. But still recognizable Mrs. H.
She leads me through her fantastic house, full of museum-worthy African artifacts, and to the garden where we sit by the pool. The film set is perfect.
Three small dogs run around her feet. Unfortunately none of them is called Freeway, the name of the Harts & # 39; dog – a character as loved as the human protagonists.
American actors Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, the stars of the TV show & # 39; Hart to Hart & # 39; in 1980
This is what happens when you meet a woman like Stefanie Powers: fact and fiction merge. She is so closely connected to the role of Jennifer Hart that it is sometimes difficult, even for her, to see where one ends and the other begins.
Regarding the extraordinary chemistry that permeated her marriage on the screen with Robert Wagner, also known as Jonathan Hart, Powers says: & We have chosen to be together. We loved each other. We loved everything from each other. & # 39;
She clarifies quickly: & # 39; I'm talking about Jonathan and Jennifer. & # 39;
Freeway is of course dead now. And so is Lionel Stander, who played Max, the loyal driver and butler, who memorablely introduced each of the 110 episodes of the series in his creepy voice: & This is my boss Jonathan Hart – a homemade millionaire. He's quite a guy. This is Mrs. H – she is beautiful. She is a lady who knows how to take care of herself.
& # 39; By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both, which is not easy; because when they met, it was murder. & # 39;
& # 39; It was a fantasy & # 39 ;, says Powers, who describes the allure of the show, & # 39; an escapist romantic comedy adventure. We just had to keep that bubble in the air. & # 39;
In its time, Hart To Hart was a global TV hit, unusual in its mix of high glamor and adventure combined with an uncomplicated love story.
& # 39; It was good-natured & # 39 ;, Powers says. & # 39; You didn't have to worry about coarse language or X scores (scenes). The whole family enjoyed it. & # 39;
Living on a beautiful estate in Bel Air, the Harts led a jet-set lifestyle, constantly interrupted by ridiculous crimes, forcing them to work as amateur detectives.
& # 39; We have met many friends & # 39 ;, laughs Powers. & # 39; They were always disappearing or were killed or something terrible. & # 39;
Still from Heart to Heart in 1979, pictured: Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers
Authorizations say that she and Wagner, now 89, remain very close: & # 39; We can still press each other's buttons today. We laugh all the time. & # 39;
He lives in Aspen with his wife, actress Jill St John, but always looks up Stefanie when he comes to town. & # 39; He's coming in next week, so we'll see each other again. & # 39;
She says they have a quasi-brother or sister relationship. & # 39; Brothers and sisters who really like each other – when we worked together, we sometimes got into a laugh and had to send us home. & # 39;
Many people thought they were also a couple.
& # 39; In the context of what our personal relationship actually is, it is absolutely hysterical & # 39 ;, Powers says. She finds it hard to put the magic of their chemistry into words: & # 39; If I knew what the ingredients were, I would bottle it and earn a fortune. & # 39;
When the show started, both had real partners. Robert was married to actress Natalie Wood and Stefanie had a relationship with William Holden, an American film star 24 years her senior.
But in November 1981, both Wood and Holden – Wood died of drowning when she and Wagner were on a weekend sailing trip.
Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner at a Bafta party in California in 2003
When I ask Powers how Wagner deals with the infinite speculation about Wood's death (he has been named by the authorities investigating her death as a & # 39; person of interest), she says: & # 39; people who, when they can try to earn some money by selling the story. & # 39;
Does it get him? & # 39; I'm sure it touches him & # 39 ;, she says.
Holden, a well-known alcoholic, died by tripping and hitting his head in his apartment in Santa Monica after drinking vodka.
& # 39; That was a very, very tragic period, & # 39; Powers says today, with tears in her eyes. But Hart To Hart was mid-series – and the show had to go on. & # 39; We had an obligation; we didn't have much choice. & # 39;
Has the double tragedy brought her and Wagner closer? & # 39; We were very close anyway & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; We held each other up. & # 39;
From the depths of my heart in 1982. Pictured: Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers
At the time of his death, Powers and Holden had split up because they could no longer cope with his alcoholism. But she still spoke to him every day.
& # 39; I was filming in Hawaii and he did not answer my calls. & # 39;
Eventually she heard the news of his death on the car radio.
For nine years Powers says he was sober for most of that time. & # 39; The middle seven years were brilliant. They were booked (by alcoholism). Alcohol was his mistress. It was inevitable that something bad was going to happen. & # 39;
Although she has been married twice – once with actor Gary Lockwood (from 1966 to 1972) and later with a French count, Patrick Houitte de la Chesnais (1993 to 1999), it is clear that Holden was the love of her life.
She has no children, but says today: & I would have had a child with Bill if he could have done that. I just wanted a little more from him. But he had a very unfortunate infection due to a ruined vasectomy that could not be undone. & # 39;
The parrot they shared, Papuga, now 46, is sitting on her shoulder for part of our interview, intervening from time to time.
Robert Wagner (left), Stefanie Powers (center) and Lionel Stander in 1992 while Stefanie is introduced to the walk of fame in Hollywood, Los Angeles
& # 39; Bill would spend hours and hours trying to teach her to whistle about Colonel Bogey March, & # 39; Powers chuckles.
Powers was born in Hollywood in 1942 as Polish parents and describes her childhood as happy & # 39; when my father left home & # 39 ;. Her parents divorced when she was six. A cheerleader at Hollywood High School, Powers first trained as a dancer. & # 39; But when I was 15, I grew these two protrusions on my chest called t ** s, so I no longer had a ballet. & # 39; Powers says she & # 39; never participated in the beauty contest & # 39; as a teenager. & # 39; I was a tomboy. I always ran around with the boys. & # 39;
After the dance, she started acting and signed to Columbia at the age of 16. She played John Wayne's daughter in McLintock !, opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Die! Die! My sweetheart! and in 1966 he played in the short-lived The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (a spin-off from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.).
But it was Hart To Hart that made Stefanie Powers a household name.
Originally the studio wanted to play Wagner's wife, Natalie Wood, Mrs. H. But Wagner, who had previously worked with Powers, thought she was the best choice.
Powers says: & # 39; It was not a success overnight, but as soon as people discovered us, it started. I remember the screams of fans when we won the People & # 39; s Choice Awards (in 1980) and we suddenly realized: & # 39; Oh my God, they really like us! & # 39; & # 39;
It was Hart To Hart that made Stefanie Powers a household name. Originally the studio wanted to play Wagner's wife, Natalie Wood, Mrs. H. But Wagner, who had previously worked with Powers, thought she was the best choice. Pictured, Stefanie and Robert
Unlike some actors, who find it annoying to be associated with just one role, Powers is proud of her time as Jennifer Hart.
& # 39; A lot of people still hold that very fast. My contractor (she has a team of builders working on her house) said he was surfing last night and found Hart To Hart. He said: & # 39; I was nailed. It gave me the nicest nostalgic feeling. & # 39; I thought: & # 39; Isn't that nice. & # 39; & # 39;
The series suddenly ended in 1984 when a new studio boss arrived. & # 39; It was so unexpected & # 39 ;, Powers says. & # 39; I was in Paris to film Mistral's daughter and I got a call from RJ (Wagner's nickname). I was like: & # 39; Wait a minute, I'm not ready for this. & # 39; It was as if someone cut off my right arm. I was in tears the rest of the night. & # 39;
Almost ten years later, the show was back – but in a TV movie format. There were eight Hart to Hart TV films between 1993 and 1996.
In 1993, Powers and Wagner also appeared together in the West End in Love Letters. Since then, she has mainly devoted her energy to the stage and plays in a play called One November Yankee with Harry Hamlin, which opens in October in Wilmington, Delaware. & # 39; It's two-handed and I play three different people. & # 39;
A few years ago Powers appeared on I & # 39; m A Celebrity … Get me out of here! (she was & # 39; excited & # 39 ;, she said later, as the first participant voted away), and she still occasionally plays a movie – she plays a role in the upcoming The Artist & # 39; s Wife.
But she believes that Hollywood has gotten worse.
& # 39; It's a shadow of itself & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; It has nothing to do with the industry in which I grew up. Directors don't make decisions – people who have never recorded a movie make decisions. & # 39;
She also doesn't have many trucks with the # MeToo movement. & # 39; It's just the newest kid on the street, & # 39; she says. & # 39; If I were a young man today, I would be terrified. What happened to flirting?
& # 39; I don't mind if a man says: & # 39; Hey baby, you look great today. & # 39; And I might as well pat his ass.
& # 39; But the intimidation of women by men in powerful positions is of course unacceptable under all circumstances. & # 39;
Stephanie Powers attends the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House
No one has ever abused her, she says. & # 39; I have never had sexual predation. If someone made a comment, I was certainly able to make a comment back. Nobody ever chased me through a room. And if they had done that, I would take karate. I just wouldn't have stood for it. & # 39;
Today, Powers is single – although she had a happy 14-year relationship with businessman Thomas Carroll, who died of skin cancer in 2014.
She cannot imagine sharing her life again. & # 39; I am not there. I'm not on the market. It is hard to understand how it would work now because of the diverse nature of my choices in life. & # 39;
She refers to the way she divides her time between Kenya (where she has a house and runs the William Holden Wildlife Foundation), Los Angeles and the UK, where she has a farm on the South Downs because she loves the English countryside .
& # 39; Who would match? & # 39; she points out. & # 39; And would I really want someone to fit in with it? & # 39;
Refreshingly direct, Powers says she doesn't enjoy aging much. & # 39; I don't know what is positive about that. You have to wear a lot and you have to find what works for you, because nobody comes out alive. & # 39;
In addition to losing many of her friends in recent years, she has suffered from cancer four times (& # 39; three times lung cancer and one time breast cancer & # 39;), so it is not surprising that nowadays she is less worried about superficial beauty routines.
& # 39; It doesn't bother me much, & # 39; she says. & # 39; Everyone now looks like Kim Kardashian. I just want to say: & # 39; Don't you know how vulgar you look? & # 39; & # 39;
She has been a vegetarian for years and now eats meat again (& # 39; you need proteins to fight cancer & # 39;), and does Pilates, a jazz dance class and horse riding twice a week.
She talks about an exchange with Prince Charles, with whom she occasionally played a competitive polo. & # 39; The last time we marched together on the floor, he said: & # 39; I don't know how long I can do this. & # 39;
& # 39; I am older than him, so I said: & # 39; Please, sir, don't give up. & # 39; & # 39;
Has she ever imagined what Hart To Hart would look like if it were still on?
She chuckles at the thought. & # 39; I don't think RJ would be interested in chasing after villains – unless he had an electric wheelchair. But we would still be together. And it would still be an obligation to be a friend of ours! & # 39;
. (TagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) femail